In theory, New York City seems like the perfect place for an electric car. The city’s Sisyphean stop-and-go traffic plays havoc with internal-combustion vehicles’ fuel economy; the emissions gushing from hundreds of thousands of tailpipes plays havoc with New Yorkers’ lungs; and the instant-access torque of an electric motor is ideal for the aggressive, low-speed surges of power needed to slice and dice through the endless knot of vehicles tying up the city’s streets.
But in practice, NYC’s EVs face one serious dealbreaker of a problem: It’s damn hard to find a place to plug in. While plenty of New Yorkers don’t have cars, most of those that do are stuck parking them on the street, where the only way to plug in is to pirate power from a street light. Even those few fortunate enough to drop the hundreds of dollars per month on a reserved spot in a parking garage can’t always guarantee they’ll wind up in front of a rare electric charge point—and good luck convincing the average Manhattan garage owner to spend the thousands of dollars needed to install one.
But those trouble might all be about to change. On Tuesday, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city would be spending $10 million to add 50 public electric car charging stations to the Big Apple by 2020, delivering the capacity to charge up to 1,000 EVs simultaneously.
The chargers are a key part of NYC’s goal of making EVs account for one-fifth of all motor vehicle registrations in the city by the year 2025. Each of the stations will be home to as many as 20 separate fast chargers, which the city says will be capable of juicing up an electric car in around half an hour. Currently, just 16 public fast chargers exist in the city—at least four of which belong to Tesla, and are located way out at the city’s John F. Kennedy Airport—as well as an additional 526 Level 2 chargers, which usually dispense between 26 and 70 miles of range per hour of charge time.
The city government will work with local power company ConEd to determine the best locations in each of the city’s five boroughs—Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island—for the stations, with at least one coming online in each borough by 2018. In addition, the city’s police and transportation departments will work together to reserve at least 100 street-parking spaces for electric vehicles, giving them a place to charge for longer periods. NYC is also partnering with GM’s Maven car-sharing division, the EVgo charging network, and the U.S. Department of Energy to allocate an extra 50-plus electric cars for the city’s ride-hailing fleet, along with more spots to charge them.
De Blasio, who has taken fire from transit advocates over his use of a police motorcade for his regular trips across the city to the gym, used the announcement to take a shot at a higher-profile political target.
“New York City will continue to invest in the new technologies we need to reduce our emissions, especially in the face of Trump’s abdication of leadership on climate,” de Blasio said. “By helping develop the infrastructure necessary for electric vehicles, we’re going to make it easier than ever for New Yorkers to switch. This is another step towards aligning our action on climate change with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree stretch goal.”